By Liz Chatterton, Associate Creative Director – Article Group
There’s nothing like entering a new year to make us stop and reflect on how far we’ve come and our goals and priorities moving forward. Businesses can (and should) do the same — especially when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
It’s been almost two years since many of us and our employers signed the RAF’s DEI Pledge and embarked on new — or renewed — DEI journeys, fueled by urgency and a massively important social movement.
There’s no question that advertising, as an industry, has a lot of work to do. To say our field has been historically dominated by white males would be an understatement. Even today, only 11% of creative directors are women (which is up from 3% just a few short years ago) — and very few are people of color. This is not lost on my team at Article Group, where I work as an Associate Creative Director and serve as a member of our Racial Justice Committee.
We’re working hard to change those numbers — by changing our own agency for the better. And while we recognize that there is a lot more work to be done and it will be ongoing, for the duration of our little company’s existence, I do think that we’ve taken some big steps in the right direction over the past year and it gives me cause for optimism after a couple of really difficult years.
I’d like to share some of that progress here, with the hope that it will give you and your agencies some cause for optimism too.
But first, a little backstory and context setting: at the end of 2020 our President Joe Lazar published a very public article about The Mistakes We’ve Made, specific to our DEI efforts. These mistakes include waiting for a social movement to act, not fully understanding how corporate responsibility differs from personal activism, not having the right people leading our initiatives, among others. He was also very open about the fact that none of us in the advertising industry really have a model to follow when it comes to tackling our nation’s systemic race problem with grace. We’re all figuring it out as we go.
One year later, we’ve righted many of the wrongs he shared and I really do believe we’ve made meaningful progress, by doing the following:
1. Spending time on the foundational groundwork
Knowing that this type of work requires a long term/eternal commitment, we decided to formally establish a Racial Justice Initiative. With the help and guidance of a wonderful DEI consultant, we formed a committee, set goals, established a charter to guide us, and committed to reporting out what we’d done to the entire agency once a month to create some additional urgency around making progress. The committee meets bi-weekly and we’ve allocated working hours for DEI projects to all committee members’ schedules to ensure this work is prioritized just as highly as our client work. All of the above has been immensely helpful.
2. Hiring a Head of People (and added much-needed diversity to our leadership team)
Not only was it super important for us to bring on a full time leader who is entirely dedicated to the wellbeing and development of our team, it was super important to bring on someone who is as passionate about creating a truly inclusive and equitable environment as we are. Not only did we find the most amazing and qualified person for the job, she is a woman of color who will be a big part of our leadership team, which has historically lacked diversity.
3. Making DEI part of our creative briefs
This is one of the things I’m most proud of, and most excited to share. Rather than simply striving to make our work more inclusive, we’re outlining specific DEI goals and requirements in the brief. It’s built right into the template, so it’s always top of mind for our strategy team and our creatives.
4. Solidifying a partnership with The Marcus Graham Project
We knew that we wanted to do something to make the industry more inclusive and more welcoming to diverse talent, and we also knew that trying to tackle that on our own would require more time and resources than we currently have. To maximize impact, we decided to seek out an established organization that shares our beliefs and is already doing this kind of work, with a proven model.
Our Racial Justice Committee identified and met with several groups and unanimously decided that The Marcus Graham Project was the right fit for us. They’re on a mission to change the face of the media and marketing industry — and they’re doing it everyday by offering amazing programs that provide diverse aspirants in our business with the exposure and experience necessary to solidify their careers in advertising and/or PR.
In 2022, members of our team will be serving as mentors to bootcamp program participants and Article Group will present in the Speaker Series. We’re very excited to be a very small part of what they’re doing and can’t wait to see how the partnership evolves and grows.
5. Changing the way we recruit — and hire.
To say we’ve overhauled our recruiting process would be an understatement. We’ve invested in new software that has tools built in to help mitigate unconscious bias during sourcing and interviewing. It’s helping us evaluate candidates more consistently and fairly and allowing us to cultivate inclusion and belonging in our candidate experience.
We’ve also strategically revamped our career page to make it easy for candidates to see what our values are and how they align with our hiring culture.
We still have a lot of work to do, both at Article Group and across the industry, but as goal-expert and author Denzel Wellington puts it, “Actively recognizing progress towards your goal will ultimately end up inspiring you and have you pushing even harder.”
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